Key Biscayne Essential: Puntino Italian Restaurant
If the offerings of Italian cuisine at Puntino smack of the flavors from Venice and Rome, it’s because the entire concept is a direct Italian import. Owner Cristoforo Pignata arrived here from Napoli just over four years ago, having spent a career overseeing his family’s luxury hotel empire that expands throughout Italy and into Switzerland. He is now building the Puntino cuisine experience, which in addition to the fine dining outfit on Key Biscayne today includes a neighboring pizzeria, a catering company that can accommodate any crowd, a bistro on Lincoln Road, and Pizza Napoli – which is a food truck serving the hot, cheesy slices and fresh baked pies.
“If your mouth is not educated to taste the best you can never produce the best,” says Pignata. “To create the best quality of food you have to find the best products. I want to serve big, healthy food. I buy mozzarella from one place and Virgin Olive Oil from another. All of our truffles for the Sardinia pasta come from Alba, Italy.”
To that end, the restaurant serves specialties such as fresh blue mussels and clams sautéed with garlic, cheery tomatoes, asparagus and saffron in addition to thin slices of octopus with homemade pickles in orange vinaigrette. The tagliatelle is homemade fettuccine with Bolognese style meat sauce and the pennette funghi is sautéed with mushrooms, truffle oil and creamy tomato sauce. Seafood dishes include pan seared Chilean seabass with macadamia nut crust and branzino al tartufo. Beef and veal tenderloins are prepared in traditional Italian seasonings and sauces.
“I have six chefs from Italy,” says Pignata. “Coming from as far south as Sicily, up through Napoli and Rome and to the north. That’s so we can make the food from all over.”
Pignata hired the chefs already working in the United States — so they’d be accustomed to the language and the local restaurant regulations — but continues to invite those from his Italian restaurants back home to the American eateries for a guest chef series. One specializes in osso buco with risotto, another who is an expert in in fusion food and another with fish. Also coming to Punitno: a caviar corner and stone crabs. The catering company, meanwhile, is busy creating magical moods with ideas such as desserts placed in buffets made entirely of ice as well as simply seated dinners for small groups.
“Whatever we serve is super healthy,” says Pignata. “And you know who will tell you that? Your body.”
“I came here because I feel in love with Key Biscayne,” says TK. “It’s a gorgeous place to live. But also I want to create something by my hand – and not coming from the other generations.”